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home : blogs_old : butch’s brew July 28, 2015

Butch’s Brew
By Butch Meriwether
The subjects of this blog will be diversified, sometimes cute or funny and hopefully, will address interesting subjects. However, there may be times when I believe a particular subject needs to be “championed” and addressed. I hope my blogs will inform, inspire emotion and to cause people to think. If you want to contact me other than through comments to my blogs, I can be reached by emailing me at butchsbrew@frontier.com.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Words escalate into a toll booth, protests and legal maneuvering

Butch Meriwether

The Nigel Turner and Hualapai Nation situation almost has more flair than a World Boxing Association televised championship match.

I can just imagine announcer Michael Buffer standing in the middle of the Las Vegas-style ring holding onto the microphone and saying in a commanding voice, "In the left corner we have Nigel Turner, and in the right we have the Hualapai Nation. Ladies and gentlemen, let's get reeeeeeaaaaady to ruuuuuumble."

Much has been said, mostly by the Hualapai Nation officials, about Mohave County Ranch owner Nigel Turner and the toll booth he set up recently on the dirt road that runs through his property.

Both sides of this situation are yelling foul, but from what I see, the judges have scored the match's first round card as: Nigel Turner 1 - Hualapai Nation 0.

Nigel Turner continues to say his toll is perfectly legal, and the Hualapai Nation is extremely upset with Turner's entrepreneurial endeavor. The Hualapai Nation has gone on the offensive by placing protesters just outside Turner's property. The tribe recently released a statement to the media, specifically the Associated Press, saying in part, "The Hualapai Tribe is disappointed that Mr. Turner has chosen to pursue these unethical - and potentially illegal - actions along Diamond Bar Road ... suddenly threatening to close a busy road on a holiday weekend and charge visitors a toll makes Mr. Turner appear mean-spirited and hurts tourism throughout Mohave County." However, the judge overseeing the case of "could have-should have" said Turner couldn't close the road off, but had the right to charge a toll (Point No. 1 First Round - Nigel) to people wanting to cross his property.

I think it is extremely interesting the Hualapai Nation has attempted to work on the sympathy of the Mohave County residents and reading public in hopes of swaying support to their side. They also have said they don't understand why the Mohave County government would not intervene by shutting down Turner's money-making adventure.

From what I see, Turner hasn't done any more than what the judge allowed him to do. He didn't shut the road down and is only collecting a toll to cross his land. Granted, $500 for a bus with 50 passengers on it, $250 for medium-sized buses, $125 for vans and $20 for adults driving themselves and $10 for children seems a bit high. It seems basically like the Hualapai Nation feels Nigel Turner is cutting into their enormous profits the tribe rakes in from the Grand Canyon West Hualapai Ranch and the Skywalk.

I'm a little confused about the Turner/Hualapai agreement and confrontation and where it may lead. Supposedly the Hualapai Nation signed a contract with Turner to do certain improvements on Turner's property in order for him to allow vehicles traveling to Grand Canyon West to trek across his property. The agreement included paving of a new road; underpasses for cattle and horses; two entrances to the ranch with turn and merge lanes, with cattle guards; a line of trees to buffer the ranch from traffic; and new signs for the business. This agreement was OK'd more than four years ago and the Hualapai Nation balked at it because they allegedly didn't have the funds to complete the project. In essence, the Hualapai Nation basically did not keep up with its part of the bargain in order for the tourists heading to their attractions to be allowed to transit through Turner's property.

Because work wasn't completed by the stipulated date in the agreement, the old dirt road was designated as abandoned and reverted back to Nigel Turner. The Hualapai Nation is now complaining that Nigel Turner is charging a toll because the judge hearing the case said he could do so. The guess here is that the tribe's collective wallet is taking a hit.

Just think how much money the Hualapai Tribe has generated through the Skywalk tourism since they kicked developer Jin off the reservation and took over the facility. I would venture to say that the figure they have amassed is in the millions. However, they chose to file bankruptcy, hoping not to have to pay Jin his fair share, and didn't want to use just a little of those funds to complete the needed work on Diamond Bar Road.

Round No. 2 of this championship match has gone into the history books and it seems like it had more twists and turns than the Tom Clancy novel Patriot Games. The Hualapai Nation scored big time when Nigel Turner appeared to have a soft heart and is now allowing the workers of Hualapai Ranch and Skywalk to pass toll-free through his property so they could get to work without paying (Point No. 1 Second Round - Hualapai Nation).

The Hualapai Nation, seeing Nigel Turner allegedly had a soft heart, decided to take a page out of the playbook of history by copycatting what the early settlers did when they boarded British ships in Boston Harbor and tossed the cargo of tea overboard in retaliation of the taxes the British government was imposing on them. According to an unnamed source, some Hualapai tribe members conducted covert operations and boarded a tour bus, packed with Chinese tourists heading to the Skywalk, prior to it arriving at Turner's Ranch and/or toll booth. The distributed the same type of shirts workers wear at Hualapai Ranch and Skywalk in hopes of smuggling the Chinese tourists through the toll booth without having to pay. Guess what? Since the Chinese tourists didn't speak English or Hualapai, the plot was exposed. A $500 charge (Point No. 1 Second Round - Nigel Turner) was assessed in order for the bus to pass through his ranch.

At the end of the second round, the judges scored the second round even - one point for Nigel Turner, one for the Hualapai Nation, with Turner holding and overall 2-1 lead.

I'll have to agree that maybe Nigel Turner was a bit overzealous and exercised poor judgment by having the security guards collecting the funds look as if they were paramilitary troops. Maybe he should have had them dress up in old-time themed costumes to look like cowboys and Indians of the Wild West so they didn't have a threatening look about them. And besides that, I guess the tourists should realize it is legal in Arizona to "pack" a firearm on one's hip. The tourists should have known about our liberal weapons laws.

Round No. 3 is about to start and it looks as if it may resolve some of the bad blood between Nigel Turner and the Hualapai Nation. According to Turner's attorney, the ranch owner has agreed to stop restricting access across the old road pending completion of the mediation that is scheduled for May 30, 2013. This is conditioned upon the county's agreement to work with him in addressing the safety issues if the access issue is not resolved during the mediation and it becomes necessary to bring back the access restrictions. The mediation was to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Mohave County officials have said they are hopeful an agreement will be reached, pursuant to which the tribe will agree to reschedule construction of the new road in the vicinity of the ranch in exchange for an extension of the easement for the old road.

Remember, it is the Federal Government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs - not the Hualapai Nation - that are now paying for the upgrades on Diamond Bar Road. The enormous amount of revenue the Hualapai Nation is generating from the various tourist attractions isn't going to the upgrade of Diamond Bar Road.

Most everyone wants to know where all of the profits the Hualapai Nation have made from the expensive rafting trips, the Skywalk and the Hualapai Ranch have gone? I'm just an individual looking in from the outside wondering why they didn't use those profits from their attractions to complete the work on Diamond Bar Road in a timely manner instead of stopping the work?

In my opinion, the Hualapai Nation should have fulfilled its contractual obligation with Turner by finishing the road and the other agreed upon things in a timely manner. The entire situation they (or the tourists) are currently experiencing would not have occurred if the tribe had fulfilled its obligation.

It might take a very long time to resolve the Turner/Hualapai situation considering how long the Jin/Hualapai fiasco has been going on.

I don't know who will be victorious when this jousting Turner/Hualapai match is complete and the final bell has rung. It might take a long time before it is determined who'll be wearing the coveted championship belt. It's best for everybody if cooler heads prevail and the parties come to an agreement, putting an end to the verbal confrontations and innuendos.

I guess the Hualapai Nation should be lucky that my wife isn't the judge hearing the case. She is part Canuck and believes the Hualapai Nation is giving other Indian nations a bad name with their dealings with others.

"I am poor and naked but I am the chief of a nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love." Red Cloud, Oglala Sioux

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Article comment by: Just A Thought

Either way you look at it now the Indians are in a Lose-Lose situation now. They lost access through Nigel's land, they have a burial site on their land, now they will need to find another route and hope it doesn't have any snags pop up!

Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013
Article comment by: Get Serious

After the chaos they started with David Jin, this is so ridiculous. Karma?? Wow, maybe some tribal members just want to be on T.V. Now they want to make everyone a victim and chose to be the victim....

Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013
Article comment by: Trained Observer

I think this is the best read I’ve had in quite a long time. Butch, you nailed it. How can the Hualapai Indians claim innocence and say they never have done anything wrong. Not one time in recent history have they fulfilled a contract with others who went into business with them and a prime example is developer David Jin who used his own money to build the Skywalk. The Hualapai Indian Tribe should be ashamed for not being good neighbors with others living in Mohave County. They always have their hands out hoping people will plop money it them, but have they helped out their neighbors? I say no. I echo the comments by Rick Sherwood and Jim Consolato. The tribe is more greedy than charitable and always stands behind their sovereigntry when things don't go exactly as they want.

Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013
Article comment by: gun owner 000

Reminds me of a scene in the movie "Blazing Saddles" where the townfolk set up the "Lapedamane Thru-Way" toll booth in the middle of the desert, in an effort to slow the "bad guys" down. They end up having to send somebody back to town to get a bag of dimes, to pay the toll.

Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Does this fellow own the road or merely own the land it passes through? There is laws related to public roads, rail etc. which pass through private lands this fellow might be on some shaky territory legally and might end up paying more in legal fees, attorney fee's judgments in civil suits than he ever collects in tolls! It will be interesting to watch this since it might prove the judge here in Mohave county who approved this violated some judicial ethics if proven he did so for some other reason than merely his position as a judge? One might wonder how much legal experience this judge has in civil law and public roads!

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Article comment by: BOBO CLOWN

As with all things native American. How did this ranch come into this guys hands. Govt stole all this land long ago from the Natives & gave it to a non native. I for one are on the INDIAN side of this issue.

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

the Sioux wanted to control trade and travel on the upper Mississippi River, and every tribe from Iroquois to Blackfoot knew it. It's amazing how spiritual these tribes became when their brutalities were exposed and/or their monopoly of a region's assets threatened.

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Article comment by: Desert Girl

Butch, I was rolling on the floor laughing at the way you approached this thing between the Hualapai Indians and rancher. I don’t know how you do it, but I always enjoy your articles. Keep up the good work.

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

The Hualapai seems notorious for breaking contracts and agreements. It's about time they honored their word and their tribe's reputation.

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Article comment by: Rick Sherwood

As corporate citizens the tribe fails,
as good neighbors the tribe fails,
as someone you'd want to to business with, the tribe fails

you get the idea

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